by Tammy Taylor~
Y’all remember last year I went to the Mother Earth New Fair in Belton? RancherMan & I stayed at a hotel that offers a free hot breakfast. We don’t often eat a formal breakfast here on the ranch so it’s a treat for us when we travel. But although I fought landfill-bound waste in the hotel room like a ninja last year, I was distressed over the waste created at breakfast. I vowed to work on a solution to the dining trash by fair time the following year. (if you didn’t read last year’s revelations you can read that post here)
Whelp, the fair this year has come & gone and I’m happy to say I was able to significantly reduce the landfill-bound waste again. And many of these same solutions can offer less trash at the more local dining establishments too. If you’ll remember, at last year’s fair I had breakfast twice and each time I produced about this much trash for only 15-20 minutes at the table. Check out what I did differently.
Dining Room Trash Solutions
Last year involved lots of unnecessary trash for such a short time of use. So I vowed to ponder on a lower-waste way to enjoy that delicious complimentary breakfast without producing this much trash. My only requirement was that my solution couldn’t look overly weird. Although he’d never complain, I wanted RancherMan to feel comfortable with my public display of crunchiness.
I did skip the yogurt this time as I mentioned I would last year. My homemade yogurt is my fave anyway so I’d rather wait until I get home to enjoy it instead of the rubbery overly-sweet commercial stuff. That eliminated the little plastic foil-lined tub right off the bat. I also eliminated the disposable napkin, fork, spoon & plastic cup. This time the breakfast trash that I generated looked more like this:
I’m not sure I can reduce it more than this while still enjoying a hot breakfast and keeping my goal of not having it look ‘weird’ to the other diners. I guess I could have eliminated the plastic tub of jelly but then my biscuit would have been way too dry to eat. And there’s that styrofoam plate… (Ugh, styrofoam, the only thing I hate WORSE than plastic!) I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about that while still enjoying the hot breakfast they offer.
But let’s focus on the accomplishment, shall we? I enjoyed a hot breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits and jelly with coffee and orange juice. And I did so while generating much less trash than the previous year. Do you wonder how I lowered the trash without looking too out of place for RancherMan’s comfort?
Well, the same as last year we brought our travel mugs from home. But instead of two cups of coffee on the table and two plastic glasses of orange juice, we used one travel mug to hold our coffee to share, the other held our orange juice to share. No plastic cups this time. Yea!
Disposable Plastic Flatware? No Thank You.
But what about the plastic disposable flatware? Well, I’d been pondering over this solution since last year. I was always kinda worried that there were so many different people constantly hovering over the container of plastic flatware and picking through it with their bare hands. Now I’m not really a germaphobe or anything but watching the unsupervised kids rifling through those plastic forks was enough to give me pause. There had to be a better way. You know my battle cry: Use Whatcha Got!
Reusable Cloth Napkins
I had a few cloth napkins that were too lightweight and didn’t match our current set, so they were destined for Goodwill. But after our trip last year I pulled these napkins out of the Goodwill pile – they’ll be perfect for this project. I folded the bottom up just shy of halfway & sewed these simple pockets in minutes. Although I used white thread so you could see the pattern I followed for this project, using matching thread would make the pockets much less noticeable.
So that my good flatware wasn’t in danger of being lost, I purchased a couple of lightweight forks & spoons at a garage sale for this project. I simply slid a fork & spoon into the pockets for each of us & folded the top over the utensils. Finally I rolled up the napkin & BOOM! No more potentially gross, pawed-over plastic disposable flatware for us.
Plus the cloth carrying case also serves as a napkin! After breakfast I simply rolled our flatware back into the napkin and placed it in our suitcase to bring home. I’ll wash up the napkins & flatware & we’ll be in business again.
Perfect-Sized Pouch To Hold It All
But I’d like to add a few things that will help when we’re dining in our own neck of the woods too. I thought it would be helpful to have a small zippered pouch to store my dining essentials so I can grab & go when we step out to eat. I found this small unused fabric pencil case that’s the perfect size. So here’s what else I packed inside.
RancherMan & I love a Braum’s burger! But it’s huge so we often split a burger between the two of us. These days Braum’s refuses to cut the burger in half for us citing some sort of health code. (pfffft!) So instead, I’d always cringe as I’m forced to use one of the plastic-wrapped flimsy plastic knives for the simple act of cutting our burger in half. Only TEN SECONDS use and then into the trash it went. Oh how I hated it – the plastic AND the waste!
Handmade Wooden Knife
But at this year’s Mother Earth News Fair I purchased a small handmade wooden knife for just a few dollars. I’ll keep this knife in the same pouch as my napkins & flatware. It’s there waiting when/if I need it and at only 7-8 inches long it takes up very little space. If I need to use it I’ll simply bring it home, wash it up and place it back into the pouch.
Disposable Plastic Straw?
One last item is packed into my trash-reduction arsenal. You see, I always opt for a straw when we go out to eat because of a very negative experience in my past.
Picture this: There we were, enjoying a delightful dinner, when I went to take a sip of my beverage & there was the faint outline of lipstick on the rim of my glass. Ewwwwww… The outside of the glass didn’t get the cleaning attention that (hopefully) the inside received.
From then on I always requested a straw. At least my mouth will never touch the rim of a glass that’s not been thoroughly cleaned. But c’mon, remember I hate plastic so eliminating that plastic straw every time we go to a restaurant is something that appeals to me. So I bought an inexpensive * stainless steel straw. It’s now tucked inside my little pouch in its own little sleeve to protect anything from getting inside it while it’s in storage.
And VOILA, there ya go! My own little compact trash-fighter bag. This small pouch stays in the glove compartment of our car (unless we’re traveling & then I pack it in our suitcase). If we go out to eat I grab this tiny pouch & take it into the restaurant with me. If the restaurant is fast-food & the flatware is plastic I’ll use my own reusable metal flatware instead. And I’ll use my own reusable stainless steel straw instead of requesting a plastic disposable straw every time.
After our meal I simply toss everything back into this tiny pouch & bring it home. Then I’ll wash everything up, repack it & place the pouch back in our car’s glove box. There it’ll be ready & waiting for our next dining excursion.
So far, so good y’all! It works great for me and it cost nearly nothing!
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